commercial breaks and a most unreliable narrator

I’m pleased as punch to announce I’ve published my second e-book, commercial breaks. It is two prose poems I wrote during a high manic phase back in the early ’90s and was originally published online. I’ve had the piece professionally edited and now it’s good to go. You can buy it from amazon or download it (for free) in pdf or mobi format. (Obviously, I would want you to buy it so that I can be even more pleased someone is buying my work!)

I’ve just corrected the proofs for the print copy of The Lisa Chronicles, Vol: 1 and those should be up for sale in a few weeks. Print copies of commercial breaks are soon to follow.

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From exit, pursued by a bear:

…a few weeks ago I made the grand decision to start spilling my guts over at http://tinyletter.com/amostunreliablenarrator/. The decision was painful but I have to accept people aren’t reading blogs anymore — it’s all newsletters now — and I want to keep writing but I want — no I need — to get my voice out to as many people as possible. Newsletters it is.

I miss you. I hope you’ve been missing me too.

research i: overwhelmed

I’m panicking and procrastinating but mostly panicking.

This week or weeks coming soon hold a lot of finals for me: this was the last week for chiro/pt and my front end web dev class. Next week is my final week of unemployment. I’m selling my car next week or the week after. After months of studying and having some sort of purpose, my schedule is empty. My medicating shrink noted he was afraid I would get bored silly and I guffawed and pointed out I have been out of work for the last 2.5 years and if there is anything I can do is fill my time with meaningful things.

Except here I am with that time and I’m panicking.

The local job hunt remaining disappointingly unfruitful, TEH and I agreed (I was fairly pushy in the process) we are going to go to the family cabin on Memorial Day weekend and stay until Labor Day. Louisvillian summers are wretched — it’s not unusual for it to go weeks in the high 90sF with little or no rain. Spring isn’t much better. The dog, she of very little snout, starts to get woozy and pant-y around 75F. Spending the summer cooped up in Louisville is not in the cards. So I sold the idea I would find a part-time gig up north and in my downtime write a book. I accepted the challenge in December and then conveniently put the challenge away when more immediate things needed my attention.

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Jesus fuck, I’ve touted I’ve been writing a book for years, surely I can be more than talk — I can totally do this.I’ve taken on larger projects and seen them to completion.  I can do this.

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There is no more choice or shouldas or possibles, it has to happen. Now, finally, the gods have bestowed me a fairly clear mind, a place to live / fed / watered, support system emotionally and mentally, and time. Glorious and precious time.

I’m in a really good place.

Except.

Except.

I’m panicking and panicking hard. ( I keep saying this and yes, I know this means what I think it means.)

I decided today was going to be the day to begin. Pens were clicked and the book’s notebook first pages were smoothed down. A new folder was created in my bookmarks manager and I moved over URLs from the before (because there will always be a before) to the new folder. I dug through some previously read books with bibliographies and added those books to my own growing bibliography. I started to list  topics I needed to cover (general history, fashion, women actresses, women photographers) adding in broad search topics such as “belle epoque” (French version of Edwardian), “art nouveau,” “spiritualism,” “Edwardian postcards,” and “gibson girl.” I found myself on a Wikipedia rabbit hole bookmarking anything that looked remotely interesting while my chest got heavier and I clicked my pen open to close. Open to close.

An hour or two into this exercise, I got a bee in my bonnet I needed to have a Coke Slurpee which put TEH and me on a scavenger hunt around town (nearest 7-11 is 200 miles away so we settled for Speedway freezee). Then I read Facebook. Checked email. Bemoaned the state of interlibrary lending in the state of Kentucky and found a workaround which led to randomly checking to see what books could be available for me to get via ILL. Checked Facebook again. Wrote a few lines for this post. Contacted the local university (U of L) to see if they had some kind of visiting patron cards available rather than having to wait six weeks for materials to arrive at my local library. I ate Cool Ranch Dorritos, wiping finger crumbs on a damp cloth napkin, while I sucked down 44 oz of frozen, slushy Coke deliciousness. I took my hair out of the bun and shook it free, spending a few minutes combing it to let my hair “breathe.” I’ve come back and forth Facebook, rabbit hole now on non-related topics, writing here, eating something, kissing TEH.

I need to breathe, not just my hair.

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The plethora of topics may be too much. An ageing London actress (look up “london stage edwardian,” “london theatres,” “london west end,” “edwardian fashion,” and “edwardian actresses”) who picks up photography (search for “women photographers,” “history of photography,” and “victorian cameras”), and add in spiritualism (look up “spiritualism victorian”) and may be pals with Arthur Conan Doyle (find “Arthur Conan Doyle AND spiritualism”) with a dash of mystery involved.

And the supernatural. Of course.

I panic because this book has to be written — it’s been rattling around my brain for the last five years. It may not get published but it needs to be written, then hugged, and gently put to bed and loved every once in a while. It may be terrible and overwrought but it will be mine and mine alone. I feel if I don’t write this book, all I will be doing is cranking out mediocre short fiction waiting, with downturned baited breath, for the eventual rejections to arrive.

When I came across a problem with my front end web dev class, I would step away for an hour or two or the night or whatever and when I came back to the project, the answer was always crystal clear. Always. It became a pattern if I could not figure it out on my own, leaving it to simmer for a while brought forth the answer.

It never failed.

Tonight, I will post this, walk my dog, do my yoga, and watch TV for the rest of the evening. Tomorrow I will begin again, taking considertion into the previous days work. Nothing will be for naught or regretted. This book will be done and along with every other momentus challenge in my life, I will survive.

eff rejection

The Lisa Chronicles book

(Hrm. I can’t seem to get the image to straighten. You get the drift.)

Saturday the paper proof for The Lisa Chronicles Vol 1 showed up and having a solid form of my book in my hand feels awesome.(I borrowed the design heavily from an existing traditional publisher as I liked the simplicity of the style.) There are some minor corrections that need to be done.Even the low resolution pictures (times were different back in the late ’90s) were not as grainy as I would have thought. Overall, I am pretty pleased with how the book turned out.

I’ve got a post brewing on freeing the content but the short version is I’m providing .pdf and .mobi versions of my work for free on this website as well as putting the ebook and print copies for sale at fine retailers such as Amazon and Kobo.

Speaking of books, I sent the manuscript for my first chapbook to my editor and the return wasn’t as bad as I thought. While I’m gungho on doing the printing and such myself, I’m wavering on having it professionally published mainly because of the marketing angle. I can boast on freeing the content and getting my work into as many hands as possible,all I want but I do want to get some kind of token payment for my work.

Publications brings me to rejections.

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Ray Bradbury is credited with the “write one, submit one” methodology. It’s self-explanatory: You write one piece and you submit a piece every week. (I’ve also seen write one submit one daily but that is some crazy shit.) The more you write, the better you get, and even if you make one sale, it’s enough to keep you going as soon you’ll have two sales and so forth and so on.

Mr. Bradbury goes into more detail below.

Right now I’m ahead of the game: I wrote and submitted ten pieces in February, had one acceptance and three rejections. Even if the other six reject me, I’m still coming out a winner.

But the rejection still hurts. The sting was intensified when two of the rejections came in one day. WHY WON’T THEY UNDERSTAND MY PROWESS WITH WORDS??

Mr. Bradbury continues he went through a similar thing, we all go through a similar thing. You look back at your earlier work and see how terrible it is because it is terrible. You’re a beginner at this game and no one is going to excel coming out of the gate. But you don’t know until you submit and get rejected.

I found this sentiment to be particularly true of a piece, Palmistry for Beginners, I wrote a couple of years ago. A speculative piece, I posited the question of what if we could change our life if we changed the major lines on our palms. If you’re not familiar with palmistry, the idea is the lines on your palms represent different aspects of your life (love, health, wealth, life, etc) and they can also predict the future. I’m not sure if I buy into this wholly BUT I once went to a palm reader who predicted a breakup with a major boyfriend which happened two days later; I would have no kids, and I would get married twice. So far she’s at 90% and as Mr. Lisa and I have talked about getting married again, she’d be 100% correct. Coincidence? Sure, but sometimes there could be bigger things at stake.

I’m asiding here. Back to my short story.

I sent the piece to a speculative fiction site and it got rejected. I revised the story a year later and it too got rejected. I still couldn’t understand why. A year after that, I re-read the piece and it was terrible. Tenses were all over the place, the plot dropped and came back and dropped again. I would reject me.

I started revising again and found the original story needed to be double the length to get the plot fully fleshed out and coherent. This is a story I’m going to have to diagram / comment / note take / and whatever implement I need to use to get it into shape.

This will be the hardest story I’ve written at this point.

In this process, I learned a couple of things about myself:

  • I cannot use my bipolar mania, which I am horribly guilty of doing,  to conflate everything I write as a Pulitzer piece
  • I need to figure out a writing style and stick to it. It’s okay to change direction but that direction depends on the type of work. I’m enamoured of Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Bukowski but I write, for now, like some James Joycian and Virginia Woolf bastard step-child. I like clean and succinct writing styles. Getting a sure footing on my voice will make a huge difference instead of changing to ten different voices in the span of a single piece.
  • As some of my work is not a linear introduction, conflict, resolution style, this is not a bad thing. Finding a market for it may be difficult but I need to get into the groove of what makes me feel good as I write. “Write what I want to read” is hammered all over writing blogs.
  • All ideas are good ideas. Even if they seem ridiculous, an idea is better than no idea. Some of my ideas are terrible but that’s okay. I have ideas.
  • Revise. Send it to my editor. Revise again. Rinse, lather, repeat.

A year ago I would have given but rejection gives me hope and forces me to be a better writer and in the end, isn’t what is most important of all?

 

 

chapbooks

I’ve been thinking a lot about putting together a chapbook, a short anthology of poems/fiction/whatever that is usually up to 40 or so pages long though the number is not a hard number. Chapbooks, mainly poetry and constructed in various forms, have been around since roughly the 16th century. As expected with the internet, paper chapbooks are not quite as popular as they once were, tho’ like vinyl they are making a comeback, so, why do one?

The non-blog works of lisarabey.com are, I suppose, chapbooks in their own right if you organise them into groupings which I’ve sorta done. But the online aesthetic isn’t what I’m shooting for as I recently joked to TEH I wanted to have a shelf of my printed work and printed chapbooks would be an excellent way to start to make that happen.

But how and where to publish them? (I’ll get more into the “what” later on.)

I’ve got a couple of options that are open to me: I can find a chapbook publisher and handle it through them or I can do it myself. With the chapbook publishing route, I can get the pieces professionally edited, the book designed, built-in distribution, and some basic publicity being handled. If I go down the route myself, I can either edit the work or hire an editor (thankfully, I know one and she is cheapish), do the design, distribution, and publicity myself.

After doing some research on chapbook publishers, I decided to go down the myself route. I’ve got basic ebook design and publishing down to a science now but I could always learn more and I like the DIY activity of it. In name, at least, I do have my own publishing house, so I can publish under that imprint. The distribution markets will be a tough nut to crack. I can sell them via etsy and check local bookstores and gift shops that could sell my work. Publicity, with prose at least, I’ll find reviewers, do social media, the whole nine yards.

But really, truly honesty between us pals? No one reads archives anymore and there is so much good in those words that not being seen by more eyes is a shame.

I’ve got two projects in mind for the chapbook route. The first is combining downpour on my soul and downpour revisited into a single work. Related pieces, downpour on my soul was published in 1996 and downpour revisited in 1997. The first one an online prose piece in response to dating on the internet in 1995 – 96. It was 47 pages handwritten and clocks in around 6000 words. It is an intense no holds barred look at my love life happening online and off. The piece was written in a manic phase that lasted two days. It was, for a very long time, one of the first pieces that received some minor notoriety. While no personal details are given, I have had men referenced in the piece threaten me with libel. (Obviously, none of it came to pass.) It’s also the piece most people seem to resonate with.

The second piece, downpour revisited, was written in 1997 as a follow-up / response to its predecessor. That one is as intense yet it’s formatted differently. As it was not written during a manic phase, the voice is less rushed, less obnoxious. It does, however, feel a bit forced at times but that could be I re-read the damn thing 90000 times in the last six months.

The second project is collating my pieces from Fucked Up College Kids, the ‘zine I wrote for in 1997 – 98. There are 12 pieces (located here — scroll down and on your right) where I rage, admonish, rant, and piss people off. I was 25 and did not know any better.  While the copyright has reverted back to me years ago, I’ve been in touch with the editor to see if I can use the name when I put that chapbook together. I haven’t heard from him yet.

From there I’d like to start writing chapbook only work and start releasing that as well. I’m pretty excited about this whole endeavour.

I’ll be offering all of my work. chapbooks and books, to download for free in pdf, .mobi, and .epub and you can also buy them as ebooks and print copies for reasonable costs. My reasoning here is I’d rather have more people read my work and be engaged rather than make a few bucks. (Because literally, that is all I would make and in the negatives after you add in the cost of work.)

But more on that later.

new piece in lit.cat

I submitted my piece, first grade crush, this past Sunday morning and received notification that evening it was accepted for the next publication which came out yesterday.

Fastest notice ever.

(Followed up when I applied for a gig a few years ago at Harvard in the evening and received the rejection the following morning. I was crushed it was not sent on parchment via owl.)

The story is based on the fact I named my brother after my first grade crush, which is all true.

Anyway, you should go read it.

(I’m also going to plug and say you should read lit.cat even if they didn’t publish my piece. Their issues are set up for a total of 30 minute reads and they publish twice a month. I’ve been impressed with the quality of writing over there.)